|Damien Rice - Live From the Union Chapel|
|Music Download Reviews Religious-Gospel|
|Written by K L Poore|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008|
People are in a quandary about Damien Rice’s Live from the Union Chapel. Why would he choose this four-year-old concert to be his third official full length release? Me, I think it’s a gift to longtime band member Lisa Hannigan, who shines throughout. It’s a goodbye, and a boost, to a professional relationship that he says "has run its creative course.”
Live from the Union Chapel is a snapshot of Rice’s music just after the release of O, his incredible debut, and I love everything about it except that it ends way too soon. The old Broadway adage of “leave ‘em wanting more” has never been more in evidence than on this eight-song, 36-minute download. Because it is such a precious little gem I imagine the opposite of the famous Mozart quote is in effect here. When criticized for a piece having too many notes he asked “which ones would you have me remove?” For Live from the Union Chapel, it becomes “what would you have me add?”
LFTUC opens with three of Rice’s greatest accomplishments, “Delicate,” “The Blower’s Daughter” and “Volcano,” all from O. “Delicate” is one of my favorite songs of the last 10 years so naturally I’m instantly on board. A waltz-time tune with a gentle acoustic guitar and cello, it builds to an emotional climax laced with Hannigan’s ethereal vocals. “Why d'ya sing hallelujah/if it means nothin' to ya/Why d'ya sing with me at all?” The line gut-punches me in that sentimental way that had my ancestors from County Sligo calling for another pint of Guinness.
“The Blower’s Daughter” is unrequited longing at its finest. When Hannigan joins Rice at the bridge to sing harmony on the lines “Did i say that i loathe you?/Did i say that i want to leave it all behind?” their voices blend and float heavenward like two birds dancing in the afternoon sky. There’s a reason you’ve heard this song married to visuals over TV shows for the last few years. It aurally evokes a response that the writers obviously cannot create on their own.
“Volcanos” begins the transition from Rice’s singing to Hannigan’s becoming the focus of the release. They share verses, sometimes singing counterpoint as if they’re sparring over which words in the lyric belong to whom, until they both quietly fade into nothing. The highly appreciative audience erupts instantly and you know it’s been a good match.
“Then Go” is the first song not featured on O and their roles are now exactly reversed. Hannigan sings lead and Rice fills in the spaces over the chorus with a wordless harmony that eventually changes key and mirrors the cello. Hannigan’s voice sounds like sugar on black licorice drawing you in and forcing you to wonder where all that sadness comes from.
As if to reassert himself Rice sings the next song, “Baby Sister,” but comes in so quietly that you can almost hear his breath. This story of abuse is punctuated by a howl of anguish until it slowly transforms into “Ave Maria.” The natural reverb of the chapel makes it all the more haunting, as if we’re witnessing the final moments of baby sister before the casket is closed.
“Be My Husband” is the last song on Live from the Union Chapel that isn’t from O, and is all rhythm and Hannigan’s voice. It’s closer to the Suzanne Brooks version than the Nina Simone, and is just as sexy as either of them. Considering the location of the recording this cut feels like forbidden fruit, almost sacrilegious, with its pounding marriage ritual arrangement.
Prior to the closer “Silent Night” (a hidden track on O), Rice sings “Amie,” a love song for the end of the century that reminds me of Jeff Buckley. The feel and words betray the lyric’s meaning and the traditional sounding melody calls for another pint.
And then the reworking of “Silent Night” (Hannigan wrote the lyrics) streams out of the speakers and it is devastating. Hannigan begins a cappella, “Silent night, broken night/all is fallen when you take your flight/I found some hate for you, just for show/You found some love for me, thinking I'd go.” The tone of her voice coupled with new words is stunning in its ability to move you. It’s at once frightening and heartbreaking and pushes the boundaries of sentimentality so effectively that it’s hard to describe. The cello joins in for the second half of the song and by the conclusion the audience is so quiet they seem afraid to break the mood with applause. “I can't stop you fighting from sleep/sleep in heavenly peace.”
And with those words Damien Rice gives Lisa Hannigan a goodbye gift that was four years in the making: she’s been showcased as the highlight of a release filled with moments stunning and human. We should all be so lucky to receive such a treasure.
This is an iTunes download of protected ACC files at 128 kbps. I know I should increase the bit rate but I’m on a hard disk budget at the moment. The sparse instrumentation helps and translates well. It sounded surprisingly splendid when ripped to a CD and cranked on my home stereo. Their beautiful voices are mixed right to front, and they’re right where they should be. The natural reverb of the chapel is incredible. My only complaint remains the brevity of the recording. Now I’m trying to get a copy of the Damien Rice Live at Fingerprints CD, any ideas?